Global Trends in Veterinary Care
What you need to know
Click the key points below for more information on the topic
Access to veterinarians vary widely across markets
Over 100,000 veterinarians are active in the U.S., however in a nation like Kenya, the total may only be in the hundreds.
In developed nations, most veterinarians serve small animals
However, developing markets focus on livestock and may lack the expertise for proper pet care.
Veterinary caseloads are growing, increasing the burden on veterinary well-being
Burnout and stress are on the rise across the profession.
Medicine access was reported as an issue for 75% of veterinary associations
which hampered their ability to meet patient needs and provide quality service.
Vaccine hesitancy exists in pet health
with some evidence suggesting a notable prevalence, however more research is necessary.
Telemedicine use is rising
in veterinary clinics, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and surveys show 60%+ of pet owners are willing to pay for this service.
Access to veterinarians
Access to veterinarians and veterinary expertise varies enormously around the world according to both availability and affordability.
How many veterinarians are there in major markets?
Sources 1Germany, Spain, France, Russia, UK, Italy, Netherlands, EU-27: https://fve.org/publications/european-veterinary-survey-2018-future-veterinarians-younger-and-female/,2U.S.: https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/reports-statistics/market-research-statistics-us-veterinarians,3Canada: https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/about/statistics,4Australia: https://www.ava.com.au/policy-advocacy/advocacy/workforce/workforce-data/,5Japan: https://www.oie.int/fileadmin/Home/eng/Support_to_OIE_Members/docs/pdf/20180727_Final_OIE_JAPAN_PVS_REPORT.pdf,6Kenya: https://www.oie.int/app/uploads/2021/03/oie-pvs-evaluation-report-kenya.pdf,7South Africa https://indd.adobe.com/view/fdd17e8b-3c65-4a47-a186-3550c5091cc2,8India: https://www.oie.int/app/uploads/2021/03/25022019-india-pvs-evaluation-report-final.pdf
What percentage of veterinarians are available for small animals?
Surveys indicate that the number of veterinarians for small animals represent the bulk of veterinarians in developed markets:
In the UK, 52.6% of people working in the veterinary sector are at a small animal practice compared to just 3.2% working with farm animals.9https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/publications/the-2019-survey-of-the-veterinary-profession/
Three-quarters of private U.S. veterinarians work predominantly or exclusively with pets.10https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/reports-statistics/market-research-statistics-us-veterinarians
Across Europe, 67 percent of veterinarians, on average, work predominantly or exclusively in small animal practice.11https://fve.org/publications/european-veterinary-survey-2018-future-veterinarians-younger-and-female/
Is there a shortage of veterinarians for pets?
Yes. Despite rising numbers of in small animal veterinarians, it is not keeping pace with the record number of pets being adopted.
- In the U.S., 41,000 veterinarians will be needed in 2030 to meet pet care needs, however the profession is on pace to fall 15,000 short of this number, according to a study by Mars Veterinary Health.12https://www.marsveterinary.com/tackling-the-veterinary-professional-shortage/
- The British Veterinary Association reports a “veterinary workforce crisis” and “storm of shortages” in the UK after a 68% drop in veterinarians registering to come and work in the UK in the wake of Brexit.13https://www.bva.co.uk/news-and-blog/news-article/uk-s-veterinary-workforce-crisis-deepens-as-eu-registrant-numbers-drop-by-over-two-thirds-since-brexit/
- The Australian Veterinary Association has said more veterinarians are “urgently needed” to fill shortfalls in the wake of the ‘pandemic puppy boom’.14https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/drive/national-vet-shortage:-australia-seeking-800-vets/13337808
The result is rapidly rising veterinary caseloads. Almost half of practices worldwide reported an increase in a 91-country survey by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association.15https://academy-wsava.thinkific.com/courses/wsavaseminar-global-impact-of-covid19
What do shortages mean for the mental and physical well-being of veterinarians?
A veterinary workforce that does not keep pace with a rising pet populations ultimately puts intense strain on the individual veterinarian and their support staff. Individuals may need to care for more animals, may have less time per appointment, etc., which can affect their relationship with clients and their personal mental health.
Rates of burnout ‘displayed a substantial increase’ from 2020 to 2021 during the Covid pandemic and associated pet adoption boom.16https://www.dvm360.com/view/study-demonstrates-significant-increase-in-veterinary-burnout
Stress levels are rising amongst veterinarians, which is contributing to mental health issues occurring at levels higher than the general population, including suicide.17https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22008127/18https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p1220-veterinarians-suicide.html
The UK Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons found a majority of veterinary surgeons report experiencing conflict “between their personal well-being and their professional roles.”19https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/publications/impact-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-on-veterinary-nurses/
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, only 48% of UK veterinarians told the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons that they “would still opt for the veterinary profession if they could start their career over again.”20https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/publications/the-2019-survey-of-the-veterinary-profession/ This issue has grown since then and addressing it will be critical to the long-term health of veterinarians and their patients.
Access to medicines
In both developed and developing countries, there are several limitations which are holding back access to medicines.
Are veterinary medicines reaching pets in need?
In a survey conducted by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), three-quarters of veterinary associations surveyed indicated that access to veterinary medical products hampered their ability to meet the needs of their patients and provide quality service.21https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/WSAVA-Access-to-Veterinary-Therapeutics-Survey-Report.pdf
Major reasons cited for lack of access to medicines included the regulatory environment in respondents’ countries, as well as manufacturer related issues, such as lack of interest due to smaller market sizes and subsequently higher product costs in those markets.
The Covid-19 pandemic also impacted access to medicines, despite veterinary practices in many countries being listed as “essential” services and exempt from many closures affecting other industries.22https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/news/coronavirus-bva-and-rcvs-statement-on-changes-to-veterinary/
A quarter of pet owners said in 2020 the pandemic had made it harder to access medicines that were needed for their pets23https://www.healthforanimals.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/global_pet_survey_results.pdf despite many countries’ efforts to safeguard veterinary service. More than one in 10 pets, or 13 percent, missed essential, routine treatments, according to a global pet owner survey.24https://www.healthforanimals.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/global_pet_survey_results.pdf
Although the initial challenges from Covid have abated, the growing ‘pandemic pet boom’ has created a new set of issues related to veterinary shortages and the ability to access care, which is covered in-depth in Section 3: Trends in Veterinary Care.
Is there a ‘vaccine hesitancy’ movement within pet health?
Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, vaccine hesitancy was on the rise among pet owners, hindering progress on pet health.
- In the UK, approximately a quarter of pet owners said their dog did not have a primary course of vaccinations when young, despite vaccinations preventing a range of common diseases.25https://www.pdsa.org.uk/media/4372/paw-2018-full-web-ready-a4-printable.pdf
- Veterinarians in developed nations like the U.S. and Australia have anecdotally reported an increase in animal vaccine refusal due to hesitancy or anti-vaccination attitudes prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.26https://www.healthforanimals.org/resources/publications/publications/how-to-increase-animal-vaccination-80-recommendations-to-overcome-existing-barriers/
- Respondents in a survey of U.S. and Canadian veterinarians said the human vaccine hesitancy movement has ‘resulted in an increase in the number of owners declining or express concern about rabies and core vaccinations.’27https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7877678/
In the UK, approximately a quarter of pet owners said their dog did not have a primary course of vaccinations when young, despite vaccinations preventing a range of common diseases.
More reliable, systemic data is essential to evaluate whether vaccine hesitancy is growing amongst pet owners, particularly in the wake of Covid-19.
Innovation in Veterinary Care
Emerging innovations in pet health care highlight the potential for further improving pet health, welfare, and livelihoods. These innovations range from new vaccines, diagnostics and treatments to new services and products that are more affordable, convenient and accurate.
What are some of the latest veterinary
breakthroughs for pets?
- Gene therapy treatments for cancer, which accounts for more than a quarter of all deaths in pedigree dogs in the UK.28https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsap.13076
- Tools to reduce the need for antibiotics, such as vaccines, and monoclonal antibodies, which can help reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance.29https://www.healthforanimals.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/new-frontiers-in-animal-care.pdf
- Innovative pet technology, including wearables such as high-tech collars and tracking systems, with the market forecast to be worth some $20 billion by 2027.30https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2021/05/20/2233046/0/en/Global-Pet-Tech-Market-revenue-to-hit-20-Bn-by-2027-Global-Market-Insights-Inc.html
- Greater variety of pet nutrition options, including single-serve, balanced meals which can be tailored towards the specific needs of the pet.
The market for pet food and care products continues to grow around the world. In Europe, the market is worth an estimated €22 billion a year, with pet health products valued at an additional €2.1 billion, and the industry employing around 300,000 people in total.31https://www.fecava.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/2016_Working-towards-responsible-dog-trade-final-draft.pdf
Is telemedicine use increasing?
The Covid-19 pandemic saw more veterinary practices offering telemedicine:
- A HealthforAnimals survey conducted in fall 2020 found almost half (47%) of pet owners stated their veterinarian offered digital/remote consultations, up from 20 per cent prior to the pandemic.
- The HealthforAnimals survey found 75% of owners who had a telemedicine consultation said they were ‘satisfied’ or ‘extremely satisfied’ with the service.
- A survey published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association confirmed these findings, finding that ‘telemedicine substantially increased’ during the pandemic.32https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34061604/
What are the hurdles to telemedicine?
A global survey of pet owners’ A global pet owner survey conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic also found that almost two-thirds, or 60 percent, of all pet owners would be willing to pay for veterinary advice or consultation through telemedicine services.33https://healthforanimals.org/195-veterinary-care-experiences-during-covid-19-survey-of-pet-owners.html
Despite this, many expect telemedicine use to recede in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.34https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2021-10-15/veterinarians-still-warming-telemedicine One of the main challenges is continued regulatory and legal uncertainty in providing veterinary care via telemedicine platforms.
- In Brazil, a draft bill to legislate for veterinary telemedicine was shelved in 2020, despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic in providing traditional veterinary services.35https://www25.senado.leg.br/web/atividade/materias/-/materia/141348
- A U.S. veterinarian survey found that some respondents “reported concerns regarding legal issues” around telemedicine, indicating the regulatory issues.
The Federation of Veterinarians in Europe “recommends its members allow the use of telemedicine”.36https://fve.org/publications/fve-position-and-recommendations-on-the-use-of-telemedicine/ Achieving this goal in Europe and other regions will require continued clarity for both animal owners and their veterinarian.
Explore the other areas of the report
This report is produced by HealthforAnimals, the global animal health association, and was informed by interviews with experts in the pet world. We thank the following people for their participation: Alex Douzet, Dana Brooks, Edival Santos, Lawson Cairns, Leonardo Brandao, Marie-Jose Enders, Siraya Chunkekamrai, Shane Ryan and Wolfgang Dohne. The information in this report focuses on dogs and cats as these are the overwhelming majority of pets, although other animals such as horses, birds and fish can be pets as well.
- 1Germany, Spain, France, Russia, UK, Italy, Netherlands, EU-27: https://fve.org/publications/european-veterinary-survey-2018-future-veterinarians-younger-and-female/